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Science class whips up jars of butter

Nov. 20 wasn’t a typical day for teacher Rebecca Daley’s first-grade class at Our Lady of Las Vegas School, 3046 Alta Drive.

Instead of sitting in neat rows at their desks, the children were wandering around talking excitedly to one another, and instead of pencils, they were holding jars of heavy whipping cream. At least, it was whipping cream before they started shaking the jars.

“I think mine is butter now,” said 6-year-old Mancini Cooper, holding the jar up for Daley to see.

Daley opened the jar to reveal a slightly yellow blob of butter sitting in a paler fluid, buttermilk, which she poured into another container.

‘We do this every year around Thanksgiving as a celebration,” Daley said. “It’s kind of a science project. The kids get to see it turn from a liquid to a solid. It’s a lot of fun.”

The project begins with heavy cream, which is also packaged as heavy whipping cream. It has to contain at least 36 percent milk fat to create butter, and it works better at room temperature. Daley fills each jar halfway and distributes them to the kids.

“We shake, shake, shake them, and then there’s a mass of butter,” Daley said. “It takes 15 or 20 minutes, and then we spread it on a cracker, taste it and enjoy.”

The transition takes a while, but once the fat and protein begin to stick together, it rapidly becomes a solid.

Mancini’s mother, Jamie Cooper, was one of several parents who came in to help with the project.

“She’s been looking forward to this for a long time,” Cooper said. “She was very excited about making the butter and curious about how it was going to happen.”

Cooper was expecting to have her family, including her young nieces and nephews, over for Thanksgiving and was contemplating introducing them to butter making as a fun activity while they waited for the turkey to cook.

“As much as kids get occupied by video games, they really love hands-on cooking and making crafts,” Cooper said. “It’s educational, and it makes them an active part of the meal preparations.”

Daley said she’s been introducing kids to the butter-making project for several years. Although some recipes for making butter in a jar call for kneading it under cold water to rinse out the milk and keep the butter fresh longer, she finds that usually isn’t a problem with her students.

“They go through it pretty quickly,” Daley said. “I don’t know that any of it stays around long enough for it to go bad.”

Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 702-380-4532.

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